Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, once criticized by President Barack Obama for taking too long to toughen regulation of offshore oil and natural-gas drilling, said he expects to keep his job after the mid-term elections.
“I absolutely believe that I will stay on,” Salazar said today in a phone interview. “The president and I talk about what I do here at Interior. I think he’s pleased with the work I’ve done. He’s told me so.”
Salazar’s performance drew criticism in the months after a BP Plc well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, setting off the worst U.S. oil spill. The Interior secretary has been among Obama Cabinet secretaries expected to depart after the Nov. 2 elections, according to Michael McKenna, president of MWR Strategies, an oil-industry consulting firm in Washington.
“The perception is the administration didn’t handle the BP spill terribly well and Salazar’s going to be the guy who pays the price for that,” McKenna said in a phone interview today. “He, for better or for worse, is going to be the fall guy.”
Salazar, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who promised in 2009 to be the “new sheriff in town” when he took over an Interior Department shaken by corruption cases, drew criticism from Obama weeks after the BP spill. The president said June 15 that the “pace of reform was just too slow” in reversing “a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.”
The explosion at BP’s Macondo well was an “epidemic that was about ready to take over the country,” Salazar said today. It took BP, working with the administration, until July 15 to cap the well after more than 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf.
“From my point of view, we handled that as well as we could within the resources and technology that we had available to us,” Salazar said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of reforming the Department of Interior to safely produce oil and gas. Our work in that area of responsibility for Interior has just begun.”
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